Where Libertarians Get it Wrong


I am all for a free society where government is simply unnecessary. This is the only kind of society where we can truly be happy and productive, free to do what we wish with our lives. On this point I agree with libertarians and anarchists.

However, there is a “gotcha”. See, you can’t have a free society without a moral people. In other words, unless the people in the society behave in moral ways—ways that naturally benefit themselves and the people around them—freedom isn’t a good thing. Giving freedom to rapists and murderers means that people will end up raped and murdered. Giving freedom to robbers and liars means that we will be robbed and lied to.

The Founding Fathers and the American people understood this. They knew that unless they were virtuous enough to govern themselves, they were better off having a corrupt king and a corrupt government extract taxes from them and grind them into the ground. The alternative was societal suicide.

What is “virtuous enough”? I believe it is simply this:

  1. Do I behave in a moral manner, despite the laws or because of them? If I consistently choose the moral path despite the laws, I am virtuous enough to govern myself.
  2. Do I expect government to hurt others to help me, or to simply create the conditions of justice by punishing injustice? If I only expect government to punish injustice, then I am virtuous enough to govern myself.

Those two things above, when practiced by the vast majority of the people, mean that government becomes unnecessary. If we are all virtuous ourselves, then we need no law because we will choose morality over immorality the vast majority of the time. If all we expect is justice, and we have a keen sense of justice, then I and my neighbors can practice vigilante justice in a just way, without government support.

The ancient Israelite society, before the kings, was governed in just this way. There was no government because they had the law of nature and morality and they obeyed it, for the most part. This meant they needed no government since they could easily govern themselves. When injustice arose, it wasn’t difficult to raise the necessary army to punish injustice and right the wrong.

If you want libertarianism to succeed, you have to first become moral and just yourself, and then preach the same morality and justice to others. In other words, you’ve got to get religion and become religious, and preach religion. This means that prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah were working towards the same libertarian goals we share when they preached repentance and punishment for sin.

Once people are moral enough, then we will naturally realize our libertarian or anarchic society together.

The foundation of a society based on individual liberty is individual righteousness.


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